We had the perfect seats (Right Mezzanine, 3rd row) to the hottest show in town, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed. Bonus: The people in front of us were short (YES!). The house lights dim, the curtain pulls back and the magic starts! The first act is sheer perfection and the crowd cheers uncontrollably! Mid-way through the second act I am totally in the zone as Brian Stokes Mitchell begins to paint himself in black face (oh, it gets real). The audience is silent because we’re all feeling the heaviness of this moment. Then it happens. A phone rings…
I think that most people who know me would describe me as a patient, kind, considerate person; the lady whose phone went off right next to me that night DON’T KNOW ME. In fact, she encountered someone who was the polar opposite of the aforementioned individual with those endearing qualities. She encountered a very judgmental, easily angered and disgusted person. As her phone rang for what felt like forever, she quickly rummaged around in her purse frantically searching for it as I( and everyone else around her) looked on in absolute pissed off-ness. Call it what you want; forgetfulness or utter stupidity. Either way, she completely RUINED that moment for me and everyone else within ear’s shot of her mishap. Though it only lasted about five seconds, it was still horrific.
What happened during that show is becoming increasingly common. I have seen far too many theatrical productions to number; including community, regional and Broadway shows- and I can honestly say that within the last four years there have only been a handful of shows where I did not experience a cell phone making some kind of cringeworthy noise! In fact, a cell phone went off in ALL THREE of the shows I saw in New York that weekend (two on Broadway, one off). Is this something I now have to come to expect during my theater experience?!
If you follow me on social media, you know I rant often on this subject and it’s because I am always genuinely angered and annoyed when I experience it. In fact, the mere mention of a cell phone going off in a theater sends me into a tirade! Seriously, how hard is it to turn off your phone when you KNOW you are going into a show or at the very least silence it?! Who are you that you can not be without your phone for two hours?!
Are you a doctor on call? Then why are you at a show?
Is your wife due to deliver your baby any minute? Then why are you at a show?
Are you Jesus and therefore have to stay on the mainline so people can call you up and tell you what they want? Then WHY ARE YOU AT A SHOW?!?!?!
I seriously want to get up from my seat, walk over to the idiot with the ringing phone and mollywhop or at least Patti Lupone them! How could you be SO tacky, trifling and downright disrespectful to the space, the audience and the actors on stage?! There is a special place in hell for you. A place where cell phones ring non-stop to the tune of “It’s a Small World” and the crackling sound of people slowly trying to open bags of potato chips and M&M’s they bought during intermission!
Speaking of hell; if phone ringers belong there, people who RECORD with their phones belong in the fiery lakes…for all eternity… times two (ain’t no water, bih!). What is the point of coming to enjoy a show if you have to stress about an usher catching you illegally recording the entire thing, or worse, distracting the actors working on stage and ruining the magic they’re providing? This was Lin Manuel-Miranda’s solution when he caught a couple of losers during a Hamilton show…
Our illegal photographers tonight: white guy black cap, 3 rows back, 3 seats in.
Older woman 9 rows back, 7 seats in.
We. Can. See. You.
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) May 11, 2016
You worked too hard to get those tix.
I worked too hard to finish this show.
So when I see your phone instead of your face…
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) May 11, 2016
…it’s gutting. It sucks. I block you out. I’m sorry. Too many people are working too hard. You forfeit. — Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) May 11, 2016
Here’s MY solution…
A simple announcement at the beginning of a show is clearly not enough for this uncivilized bunch. A more serious action needs to be taken. I suggest a “phone check”. Similar to a “coat check”, audience members should be REQUIRED to check their phones before entering the theater. If your phone goes off during a show or you’re caught taking pictures, you should be FORCED to leave. This may seem harsh, but what is the alternative? In a time when the theater is struggling with the acceptance of technology- not knowing exactly how or if it should move forward into the digital age- this issue only makes that journey forward look less appealing. There is so much opportunity to bring in more consumers. Aside from simply producing more diverse content (had to sneak that in here), recording and distributing or even live streaming shows would introduce an entirely new audience to the world of theatre, but first we HAVE to get this phone thing under control.
So in closing I’d just like to leave you with a few pearls of theatre advice:
Don’t eat snacks during a show. YES, WE CAN HEAR YOU CHEWING.
Don’t judge audience members who rap along to Hamilton. You should be ashamed that YOU don’t know all of the lyrics.
And lastly, TURN OFF YOUR DAMN PHONE!!!
Get Your War Clothes On: Billy Porter Energizes in GLAAD Acceptance Speech
So, I have a question.
In the same line of thought as “innocent until proven guilty,” do we grant the assumption of positive intent in our expectations of our brothers and sister in regards to woke-ness, à la woke until proven problematic?
Now don’t get me wrong, there was no doubt in my heart that Tony and Grammy Award-winner, Billy Porter, was woke. Nope, none. What I wasn’t ready for, was the way he fixed his fingers to pen one of the greatest acceptance speeches of my lifetime, and how he turned the Gospel classic “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired” into a battle song.
The 28th Annual GLAAD Media Awards honored Billy Porter with the Vito Russo Award, presented to an openly LGBTQ media professional who has made a significant difference in promoting equality and acceptance.
He started by affirming the room full of members of marginalized communities, with my personal daily mantra: “You are enough. we are enough.”
Since the beginning of time artists are the folks who engage critically and encourage those who think they are powerless to question the status quo.
Brothers and sisters across the room leaned in.
The days of shut up and sing are over.
Alliteration informed and illustrated as Porter preached on remaining “vigilantly visual” as we tell our stories. Acknowledging the reality of our times, he spoke on Number 45:
Where they slipped up this time is in that declaration of war. It’s not only against Black and Brown people and Queer people anymore, it’s against ALL of us. And as a result, the good news is: white folk, and straight folk, and all those fierce women folk, are mad now. And NOW maybe something might get done!
Get. Your. War. Clothes. On.
From slavery to emancipation, to the 13th Amendment, to Jim Crow, to the Civil Rights Movement. From Stonewall to AIDS, to marriage equality— we gotta remember the shoulders who we stand on—the ones who fought and died for those freedoms that we hold so dear. Let’s use these historical strides we’ve made as a nation to empower us as warriors on this battlefield of equality.
Until we can figure out how to love one another unconditionally, no one wins. Freedom. Equality. Justice. Have always come at a cost and evidently the always will.
If that’s not the truth.
Stay strong. Stay vigilante. Stay visible. Stay hopeful. Stay focused. Be brave. Be fierce.
For a full list of this year’s winners, honorees, and guests, visit GLAAD.
Jazmine Sullivan: The Next Singer-Songwriter To Write A Broadway Musical?
We recently caught up with Jazmine Sullivan at The HeLa Project, a multimedia exhibition inspired by the HBO film, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
Like the rest of us, Jazmine is in awe of the under-told story of Henrietta Lacks and her instrumental role in modern medicine. We further asked about why she got involved with the project and she said: “Anyway I can give light to an extraordinary woman like that, I’m there.”
Some of the integral women in bringing this story to light have their roots in Broadway: Tony Award-winning producer Oprah Winfrey, who not only stars in the film, but also credited as executive producer, and Tony Award winner Renée Elise Goldsberry, who portrays the title character.
We wouldn’t be Broadway Black if we didn’t keep it real.
Let’s be honest, we can’t get enough of 11-year-old Jazmine singing “Home” like she wrote the piece, so we got to asking, and it turns out Jazmine wouldn’t mind putting her pen to paper to create a musical for the Broadway stage.
She said performing on Broadway isn’t in the plans for the near future but, “You never know! I love writing and creating characters!”
God!? Oprah!?!? Stephen Byrd & Alia Jones-Harvey?!?! Who’s going to snatch this up?
Until then, it sounds like we have some new music to expect. What kind of musical would you like to see from Ms. Sullivan? Sound off below in the comments!
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